Running is different from walking because you are on only one leg at a time with each stride. With walking you gradually transfer weight from one leg to the other, not so with running. When you break down running to the most basic motion, it is jumping from one leg to the other over and over again.
Everyone has slight differences in strength or flexibility between our legs, but significant differences are amplified with running. To help you decrease the subtle differences between sides it is important to do single leg exercises and stretch the muscles that are tight.
For balance: The first place to start is just balance on one leg. Check to see if you can stand the same amount of time on each leg and how difficult it is. If this is easy start to add arm or opposite leg movements.
For strengthening: do single leg squats or single leg press, single leg calf raises, and single leg bridges (make sure to keep you pelvis level).
For dynamic strength/drills: do bounding (long strides hopping from one leg to the other), side shuffle with quick feet (almost a slight hop from one foot to the other going sideways – both directions), and high knee skipping. These are just a few ideas of ways to start working on individual leg strength.
For flexibility: It is a good idea to stretch the major leg muscles (hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, calf, and gluts).
AFTER a run, if you find that one side is significantly tighter than the other make sure to stretch that muscle group. Get balanced and keep running!
Kristi Moore, MSPT
Alpine Physical Therapy, North
2965 Stockyard Rd.
Missoula, MT 59808